little stories from the field:
Front page of the Ahmedabad Mirror on one of my first days in Ahmedabad: IMMOVABLE ASS-ET “Braying Donkeys tied to a white Jaguar XF caused much brouhaha among Alsali locals who were seen snapping them on their phones on Monday evening. The animated scene outside Cargo Motors service station was arranged by Rahul Thakar, owner of the Rs. 53 lakh car which he calls ‘bekaar (useless)’. After recurring problems with the one-year-old vehicle, the 28-year-old Ghatlodia resident decided to hold what he calls a ‘symbolic protest.'” (To which I can only ask, “To whom doth symbolically protest, Rahul Thaker?”)
A man, whom I had never before met, came to deliver the results of the blood tests my grandmother had given the day before. Very excited by her good health, he instructed me “get married late so she’ll have to be alive for your wedding,” and then invites himself to my (distant future) nuptials, promising that he’ll even come all the way to America. My grandmother has promised to make sheero.
Hairy chested men
My one piece is most skimpy
A fair, complete with a ferris wheel and over-sized slide, is erected along the Sabarmati Riverfront, two blocks away from my apartment building. I notice the changed landscape upon returning from a holiday in Delhi. My inquiries about the construction are met with looks and comments filled disgust. Translation: “It’s going to be filled with Musalmans. It’s Ramzan. Upon nightfall, they will eat, and then they will head out to party.”
July 15, 2014: The Minister for Art, Culture, and Youth Affairs in Bihari is reported to have said: “People who eat more non-vegetarian food like chicken and fish are more inclined towards carrying out molestation and rape.”
I met a Brazilian who is in Ahmedabad doing an internship selling floor tiles. I tell him I have been to India 4 times in the past three years, but have been few places outside of my narrow Ahmedabad-Mumbai-Delhi circuit. He says definitively, “that’s not the real India.”
“The efforts of the AMC have made a cultural impact on community at large. Mention of heritage walk in ‘Lonely Planet’ is a credit to Ahmedabad Municipality” -City Development Strategy for Ahmedabad, 2003
Yesterday, I pick up an auto (rickshaw) at the end of my street. I want to go to Sarkhej Roza, I tell him. He agrees, and as soon as I sit in the auto he begins asking me questions. He wants to know if I want to go to the monument itself, or if I have some business in the vicinity. I start out speaking Hindi, rather than Gujarati, so he assumes I am an outsider. Along the ride, he enumerates the various sites in Ahmedabad, listing them all. He tells me that the rickshaw drivers know about them, so they can show where they are. He tells me he will wait for me at Sarkhej Roza, that if I try to pick up an auto from there, the drivers will charge me double, three times the price. I tell him it will take some time. I want to see the monuments, but I also want to roam around a bit. As we approach Sarkhej Roza, he drives past the park, where you can get a panoramic view of the monuments, “there is nothing to see there,” he tells me. He stops outside of the main mosque, and assumes a waiting position. Again, I said, “it will take some time. I want to see the monument but I also want to walk around a bit.” He insists, “There is nothing to see here, this is a Mohammedan area.” I tell him that’s fine, and ask to pay. I spend some time in the area. I pick up a rickshaw to go home. The [Muslim] driver does not rip me off.
At Sarkhej Roza, I walk into the library. The men sitting at the desk take an immediate interest in me–they ask where I am from, what I am doing. They hand me an informational booklet, and only later do I learn I am supposed to pay Rs. 100 for it. I tell them I am a student and that I am studying Ahmedabad. The secretary sits me down to give me a history lesson, about Sarkhej Roza and about Ahmedabad. As I am leaving, he asks for my name. I respond with my first name, Anar, but he is not satisfied. He pauses a minute and then asks again, “what is your surname?” “Parikh,” I tell him. He asks if I am a Brahmin, and I don’t understand the question, so he has to ask again. “No,” I respond. He presses on, “then what.” Reluctantly, I tell him that I am/my family is Bania. He continues to ask for more specifics, to which I don’t know the answer. The conversation ends when asks, “what does your father do?” and I tell him “he works at a bank.” He is satisfied.